Opening day at Grants Pass Downs draws hundreds of spectators

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — It’s the opening day of the 2021 spring and summer season at the Grants Pass Downs.

Hundreds of spectators came out ready to place bets and watch the 8 different individual races.

“It’s exciting, we’ve got some beautiful weather and it’s a great night for some racing,” said Grants Pass Downs Chief Operating Officer of Racing, Rod Lowe.

735 spectators came to the Downs for the start of the season.

Despite more people being allowed this year at 15% capacity, Lowe says it’s not nearly as many people as before the pandemic, “We normally in a normal season have 2,500 to 3,000 people.”

And fans might have noticed more horses on the starting line this year, new upgrades including a new safety rail and widened racing start allows up to 10 horses.

“We spent all winter long making some new improvements and really bringing this place up to higher level and standard than what we have been,” said Lowe.

For jockey McKenzie King, coming to race at GP Downs is special.

She grew up coming to watch the races here.

King won the first race of the night with horse number 4, Sequoia.

“He is my pride and joy, I love that horse to death. He’s a good horse and he likes this track more than anything else, he’s really into the small and tight turns,” said King.

She was one race away from winning the title at the Downs last season.

Coming into this season, she’s feeling optimistic about her chances.

“I always get a little nervous, but I was confident for the most part because I know him so well and what he’s capable of,” she said.

King was not the only jockey placing first, Lowe says 11 other jockeys participated in the opening night, as well.

“We’ll get some more coming in probably as the season comes along,” he said.

The event featured 2-quarter horse events, 6 thoroughbred races, and 65 total horses.

Grants Pass Downs says the opening night was record-breaking. Director of Marketing and Communications, Tag Wotherspoon, says nearly $460,000 was bet. That’s the most that has ever been bet on an 8-race card at Grants Pass Downs.

If you’re interested in checking out a race or two, tickets can be purchased online at

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